The viewers of Evening Magazine had 131 choices for Western Washington’s best fitness instructor of 2012, but Sheree James and her team at Shake It Off Dance Fitness came out on top. It’s no surprise, considering the staff turns dance fitness into full-on festivals of fitness, spurring on rooms full of exercisers through Latin-inspired Zumba dance classes, as well as hip-hop and urban striptease aerobics. It’s not all about cardio at Shake It Off, though; instructors also lead Zumba toning, during which students shimmy and shake while holding a weighted bar or a maraca made of cement so that they simultaneously forge muscles.
Bala Yoga’s collective of teachers helps students of any skill level explore and practice yoga. During power vinyasa sessions, participants tap into their physical and spiritual power with a sequence of poses designed to cleanse the body, warm muscles, and relax the mind. Along with vinyasa, restorative, and yoga basics classes, the studio also hosts teachers’ training and special events such as a 30-day detox and a kids’ yoga session.
Tami Jones was a dancer since she was 2 years old, but an injury in college prevented her from pursuing it as a career. She turned to Pilates for physical therapy and in it discovered a renewed love of fitness. Later, Tami fused her favorite exercises—dance and Pilates—to create The Union Method, a fitness-focused program that seeks to unite mind, body, and soul while building lean bodies. Now, she and her fellow instructors teach yoga, Pilates, and barre classes to students of all experience levels.
From camps to paddle races to standard rentals, Northwest Paddle Surfers' watersport professionals help create laid-back adventures with a fleet of stand-up paddleboards. Atop Lake Washington's warm waters, the company's instructors teach pupils how to balance on boards and use paddles to stir giant cups of cocoa. Pine and evergreen trees make up the lakefront vistas that backdrop the on-water classroom, beckoning each student to explore aquatic locals such as Juanita Bay. Elsewhere, YogaTone classes held on paddleboards challenge participants to stretch and breathe deeper.
Founded in 2010 by a group of veteran badminton players, including former head coach of Team USA Wendy Carter, Seattle Badminton Club provides plenty of space and opportunities to enjoy the fast, exciting sport. Ten regulation-size courts host bouts between players of all skill levels during drop-in matches and organized leagues. The gym also offers lessons for children and adults, imparting both the basic techniques to make proper shots and the competitive skills to wrestle birdies away from hunting dogs' mouths.
Since its 1965 founding in Venice Beach, California, Gold's Gym has dotted the globe with more than 600 locations where professional athletes and exercise newbies gather under the umbrella of personal strength. Nearly 3.5 million Gold's members chart and aim for their fitness peaks, perspiring beneath the gaze of certified personal trainers or pedaling beside peers at cycling sessions. In a diverse lineup of group classes, patrons strengthen cores with Pilates, finger-paint pictures of ninjas in martial arts, and amp up heart rates in cardio routines. Many Gold's Gym locations stockpile futuristic amenities, such as cardio machines with individual iPod docks and televisions that help keep patrons motivated.
Larissa Anderson may look young, but she's already enjoyed opportunities that older yogis would bend over backwards for. The owner and senior instructor at Firehouse Hot Yoga––formerly Bikram Hot Yoga Kirkland––completed her training in 2003, and by 2004 was already invited to judge the Southern California Regional Yoga Competition. From 2006–2007 she honed her skills as an instructor at the prestigious Bikram International World Headquarters in Los Angeles, before entering the championship circuit herself and taking home a second-place finish in the Washington regional competition.
Finally establishing a studio she can call home, Anderson welcomes yogis of all levels to stretch their limits in 105-degree heat, which encourages muscles to stretch, pores to oust toxins, and penguins to hold dance practice somewhere else. Each session explores a sequence of 26 Hatha poses performed in a deliberate order with breathing exercises designed to strengthen the body and usher oxygen to its extremities.